Microsoft Vista Home Networking Setup and Options

By Vangie Beal | Posted March 23, 2007

More on Small Business Networking

Updated July 28, 2011 -- A few things have changed in small business networking since we posted this article -- Microsoft Vista Home Networking Setup and Options -- back in 2007. Most notably, Microsoft brought Windows 7 to the market. We thought it might be helpful to update the story to reflect those changes and to add steps required in Windows 7.

Just click on the title link and read the new and improved Windows 7/Vista Home Networking Setup and Options.

If you're familiar with (wired) home networking using Window's XP-based computers, then you're probably familiar with the basic tasks, such as connecting the PCs to the network and configuring file sharing. If you're planning to make the upgrade to Windows Vista, rest assured the process doesn't change too drastically.  For most users the most daunting part will be trying to figure out where in the layers of Vista menus the networking and file-sharing options are hidden. 


Our Network Hardware and Systems
The network hardware used for this article, for those interested in such things, includes a Xincom (HC-0PG402) Twin Wan Router, D-Link 10/100 Ethernet switch, 3Com 3C17203 Switch, Motorola 5B5100 Cable Modem. We primarily connect the three PCs to the network and also use a D-Link AirPlus G - 2.4Ghz Wireless Access Point for connecting both a Windows XP-based notebook (that is not being upgraded) as well as a G4 Powerbook that is occasionally plugged in to the network as well. The upgrade was from Windows XP Home Service Pack 2, to Windows Vista Home Premium.

Getting Started
If you currently have a successful wired home network running Windows XP on the systems (and we assume you do if you're upgrading to Vista) you should consider using Microsoft's Windows Easy Transfer. This handy little tool, if used correctly it will back up all your important XP data. During our test of using Windows Easy Transfer on three PCs, it also saved our XP workgroup and file sharing information. This goes a long way in getting your workgroups and file sharing configured in Windows Vista, if you don't plan on making many changes to sharing and Internet connections.

If you went for a clean install and are ready to get started with getting your computer's network settings correctly configured you will first need to visit Vista's 'Network & Sharing Center'.  The hardest part of using the new Network & Sharing Center is figuring out where the options are located to set up your networked PCs and devices. Quite often you will have to work your way through several layers of menus to find the options you want. In XP the options are usually only a click or two away. If you're too impatient to look around, here are the step-by step instructions to getting the PCs on your network communicating under Windows Vista.

Setting up Your Workgroup
The first thing you'll want to do is ensure that your PCs all have the same Workgroup name. If you kept the default from Windows XP, your workgroup is called MSHOME. In Vista, the default is WORKGROUP.  If you want to view and edit the computer details on each PC to rename your workgroup, you  can access this from the main "Vista Welcome Center" screen by choosing the first option "View Computer Details" and select "Show More".  This will quickly bring up the Computer Name tab. Here you want to name your PC (this is what it will show up as on the network) and also change your workgroup name. You will need to use the same Workgroup name on each PC that you want to enable file sharing with.

TIP: The "Computer Name" tab is available from "Control Panel". Choose "System and Maintenance", choose "System", select the "Change Settings" button, choose "Computer Name" tab.

NOTE: Windows Vista displays a User Account Security Control window after making most changes related to sharing. This is basically a prompt asking you to confirm you choice. You'll see this prompt frequently while using the Network & Sharing Center.

Once you have successfully changed your Workgroup name on all PCs, you can then access a network map from within Vista's Network & Sharing Center. Click the Start Orb, choose "Network" then select "Network & Sharing Center". Here you select "View Full Map" to see all the systems and devices on your network.

From the Welcome Screen select
'View Computer Details'

Set your Computer and Workgroup name

Vista's "Network & Sharing Center"

In this view you may notice an area at the bottom of the screen that shows devices that cannot be placed on the map. You can still access the devices, but there are some key reasons as to why some PCs or devices may not show in the map view, the main reason being that support is not available for the required protocols.

  • Computers running Windows XP that cannot be detected probably do not have the Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol installed on the machine. You can download the Link Layer Topology Discovery Responder from the Microsoft website here to install on Windows XP PCs.
  • Another possible reason why you might not see all devices under Windows Vista could be because the Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) protocol is disabled on the network adapter, or is not supported by the network adapter itself (a very likely culprit).

Managing Your Network Settings
After configuring your workgroup and computer names, it's time to manage the settings for your network adapter. Again if you've used a Vista Upgrade or the Windows Easy Transfer your network adapter settings should already be correct. If not, then you go back to the Network & Sharing Center and choose Manage Network Connections. The next window will bring up your network adapter connection details. From here you simply right click on the adapter, choose Properties, and you will find yourself in the more familiar "Local Area Connection Properties" window.

From the Network & Sharing Center, choose "Manage Network Connections" and select your connection choice.

Use "Local Area Connection Properties"  to set your network adapter connection details.

For most home networks, you're going to need to select the Internet Protocol 4 (TCP/IPv4). Highlight the protocol and choose Properties.  If you use a dynamic IP address, you will select Obtain IP address Automatically and Obtain DNS Server Address. If you have a static IP address, click the radio button for Use the Following IP Address and enter in the IP Address, Subnet Mask, and Default Gateway. You will also need to enter in your DNS server addresses as well.

NOTE: Internet protocol 6 (TCP/IPv6) is also available in Windows Vista. Computers that use both IPv4 and IPv6 might encounter a rare problem where it cannot  resolve names and connect to Internet resources. This happens due to incorrectly configured DNS servers and you need to contact your ISP if this occurs.

TIP: Information on configuring IPV6 is available here  from Microsoft.

Network Location Choices:
In Windows Vista Home Premium, you have two options for Network Location: Public and Private, and you must choose the Network Location the first time you connect your PC to the network. The network location is what determines your Microsoft Vista firewall settings.

  • Public: If you're connecting to a network in a public place, for example a coffee shop or airport, you'll choose a Public location type. Choosing public will limit discovery of other computers and is designed to keep your computer from being visible to others on the network. Public offers the most security.
  • Private: Private networks is what you will need to select for home, small office or work networks. Choosing private will automatically configure the firewall settings to allow for communication.

TIP: Securing your Private Location Type: For your home network, if you want to enable communication between your PCs and network devices, such as a printer, you will need to choose the private location.  It is important to remember that for each instance of sharing you are basically opening up a hole in your firewall to allow access. Close the ports and and removing sharing from folders and applications that are not needed. 

From the Network & Sharing Center, under "Customize Network Settings" you can choose a Public or Private Location.

In the Network & SharingCenter, if there are devices which cannot be placed on the map, a quick link will bring up a window to show those devices which are missing from the map.

At this point, unless you have some oddly configured XP firewalls, or highly secured PC, odd and uncommon devices and the likes, your Vista-based PCs should now be connected to your home Ethernet network, and the network should be seeing the PCs, which now should now be communicating with Windows XP systems as well. You can also turn on Network Sharing & Discovery (located in the Network & Sharing Center) if you're using a private network location. This will allow your computer to see other network computers and devices and makes your computer visible to the other network computers.

With everything communicating, you should now be ready to set up file and folder sharing in Microsoft Windows Vista.

On to File Sharing in Windows Vista

Adapted from PracticallyNetworked.com, part of the EarthWeb.com Network.

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